The Power of Affirming Words

The Power of the Tongue

Mark Twain once said, “I can live for two months on a good compliment.” Good for Mark Twain, but I don’t know many husbands and wives who can survive on six compliments a year. Solomon, author of the ancient Hebrew wisdom literature, wrote, “The tongue has the power of life and death.” Many couples have never learned the tremendous power of verbally affirming each other. Verbal compliments are powerful communicators of love.

Encouraging Words

One way to verbally affirm your spouse is to give encouraging words. Allison always wanted to be a writer, but after receiving her first rejection slip from the publisher, she gave up. One evening her husband Keith came into the den and said, “I hate to interrupt your reading, but I have to tell you this. I just finished reading your article. Allison, you are an excellent writer. This stuff ought to be published! Your words paint pictures that I can visualize. You have got to submit this stuff to some magazines.” “Do you really think so?” Allison asked. “I know so,” Keith said. “I’m telling you, this is good.”

Ten years later, Allison has had several articles published and has her first book contract. She credits her success to Keith’s words of encouragement. Perhaps your spouse has untapped potential in one or more areas of life. That potential may be awaiting your encouraging words.

Focus on Your Spouse

There is a difference between encouraging words and nagging words. Encouraging words always focus on something your spouse wants to do, not something you want them to do. A nag is anything you tell your spouse more than three times.

“It’s Not What You Said. It’s How You Said It!”

If we are to express love by words of affirmation, those words must be kind words. Kindness has to do with the manner in which we speak. Sometimes our words are saying one thing, but our tone of voice is saying another. Our spouse will usually interpret our message based on our tone of voice, not the words we use. The same words expressed with a loud, harsh voice will not be an expression of love, but an expression of condemnation and judgment. An ancient sage once said, “a soft answer turns away anger.”

January “Dear Gary” Episode

On this past week’s Building Relationships

Our January “Dear Gary” broadcast!

We kicked off the show with a caller whose wife had just passed away. The caller ecouraged husbands to love their wives and care for them as God has called them to. Gary expanded on this thought by encouraging spouses to remember that the loss of a loved one can come at any moment. He urged listeners to live in a way that would allow them to end as Brian and his wife did, on a positive loving memory.

[Click here to listen]

We also learned the details on the 2009 Building Relationships Valentine’s Day Contest! Interested? Here’s the deal:

To enter, you must have seen the movie Fireproof.

Call our listener line at 1-866-424-GARY and tell us your story about how the movie made a difference in your marriage relationship-how it clicked with you, or how it gave you a vision for your marriage.

Your voicemail message must not exceed two minutes, and don’t forget to leave your name and phone number. The deadline to call is Tuesday, February 3rd. What you say might even make it on air for our Valentine’s program! The grand prize is a trip for you and your spouse to Gary Chapman’s “A Growing Marriage” conference of your choice, a copy of Fireproof, and a copy of The Five Love Languages. Runners up (15 total) will receive a copy of Fireproof and a copy of The Five Love Languages.

Thanks for listening to Building Relationships radio! Tune in Saturday, February 14 to hear the results of the contest.

Please, one entry per couple. Conference trip expenses will be covered up to $1,000. Winner agrees to pay additional costs. Deadline for entries is Tuesday, February 3rd. Winners will be notified by phone.

January "Dear Gary" Episode

On this past week’s Building Relationships

Our January “Dear Gary” broadcast!

We kicked off the show with a caller whose wife had just passed away. The caller ecouraged husbands to love their wives and care for them as God has called them to. Gary expanded on this thought by encouraging spouses to remember that the loss of a loved one can come at any moment. He urged listeners to live in a way that would allow them to end as Brian and his wife did, on a positive loving memory.

[Click here to listen]

We also learned the details on the 2009 Building Relationships Valentine’s Day Contest! Interested? Here’s the deal:

To enter, you must have seen the movie Fireproof.

Call our listener line at 1-866-424-GARY and tell us your story about how the movie made a difference in your marriage relationship-how it clicked with you, or how it gave you a vision for your marriage.

Your voicemail message must not exceed two minutes, and don’t forget to leave your name and phone number. The deadline to call is Tuesday, February 3rd. What you say might even make it on air for our Valentine’s program! The grand prize is a trip for you and your spouse to Gary Chapman’s “A Growing Marriage” conference of your choice, a copy of Fireproof, and a copy of The Five Love Languages. Runners up (15 total) will receive a copy of Fireproof and a copy of The Five Love Languages.

Thanks for listening to Building Relationships radio! Tune in Saturday, February 14 to hear the results of the contest.

Please, one entry per couple. Conference trip expenses will be covered up to $1,000. Winner agrees to pay additional costs. Deadline for entries is Tuesday, February 3rd. Winners will be notified by phone.

Speaking the Love Language of Quality Time

Quality time is giving someone your undivided attention. I don’t mean sitting on the couch watching television. I mean sitting on the couch with the TV off, looking at each other and talking, and giving each other your undivided attention. For some people, quality time is their primary love language, and if you don’t give them quality time, they will not feel loved. Is it possible that your spouse’s primary love language is quality time?

Listen for Clues

Quality time is a powerful emotional communicator of love. One medicine does not cure all diseases. Just as one love language does not communicate emotionally to all people. If you give your spouse affirming words; If you express love by acts of service; If you touch them affectionately; and they still complain, “You don’t ever have time for me. We used to do things together. Now you are always too busy or too tired,” they are telling you that their primary love language is quality time.

The Essence of Quality Time

A central aspect of quality time is togetherness. I do not mean proximity. Togetherness has to do with focused attention. A husband who is watching sports on television while he talks to his wife is not giving her quality time, because she does not have his full attention. A husband and wife playing tennis together, if it is genuine quality time, will focus not on the game, but on the fact that they are spending time together.

Dialects of Quality Time

Like words of affirmation, the language of quality time also has many dialects. One of the most common dialects is that of quality conversation. By quality conversation, I mean sympathetic dialogue where two people are sharing their experiences, their thoughts, their feelings, and their desires in a friendly, uninterrupted context. If your spouse’s primary love languages is quality time, such dialogue is crucial to his or her emotional sense of being loved. Sit down. Ask questions, and listen.

Tips for Keeping the Love Tank Full

I want to conclude by giving you four tips on how to have a quality conversation with your spouse:

1. Maintain eye contact when your spouse is talking.

2. Don’t listen to your spouse and do something else at the same time.

3. Listen for feelings. Ask yourself, “What emotion is my spouse experiencing?”

4. Refuse to interrupt. Such interruptions indicate, “I don’t care what you are saying; listen to me.”

Such active listening will fill the love tank of the person whose primary love language is quality time.

Excerpt taken from The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate by Gary Chapman. To find out more about Gary Chapman‘s resources, visit www.fivelovelanguages.com.

Do you value spending time with your spouse over holding hands, receiving expensive gifts, or hearing encouraging words? What has your spouse done to make you feel important and like your time together matters? Share your story with us.

God's People in Hard Times

On this past week’s Building Relationships

Every week Dr. Gary Chapman hosts his program with co-hosts Chris and Andrea Fabry.


Andrea Fabry shared the difficulty that she and Chris have had dealing with their Children’s sickness. Having been exposed to mold in their Colorado home for a prolonged time, the children have needed to see a specialist to receive treatments. So the children get well as soon as possible, Andrea has temporarily moved with five of the kids to Arizona.


The Fabry’s found this message from Gary particularly encouraging for this time, in their lives. [download show]

Follow along with the outline below.


Dr. Chapman centers his message in 1 Corinthians 4:8-16. He makes the following observations:

1. When we go through hard times, we are on display in God’s arena.

2. Not all of us suffer at the same time.

3. Hard times are not just inconveniences. Hard times are desperate times.

i. When you are sick, hungry, thirsty, or homeless

ii. When your marriage is on the brink of divorce

iii. When you’re emotionally harmed in relationships

4. How should we respond to hard times?

i. Work

ii. Return good for evil

iii. Follow the example of Jesus


Application Prayer Points:

1. Confess and ask for forgiveness about our complaints because they’re wrong.

2. Ask for a fresh vision that reminds us that we are on God’s stage.

3. Show me what I can do to work out of these hard times, and be obedient.

4. Fill me with the Spirit of Christ so that I can return good for evil.

5. Let my life reflect the attitude of Christ to be an example.


Hard times come, and at times it seems like they will never leave. Whether it be sickness, marital distress, or loss of a job, difficulty in life is inevitable. Praise God that we have the body of Christ around us to encourage each other, and help each other through these hard times. But, even more so we have the help of God Himself. We can find comfort in Him, whose stage we are on, and be encouraged that that we are one of the characters in His cosmic drama.


“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the same comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)


Have you found comfort in God? Your story may comfort others:


Can you relate to the hard times that Gary was talking about? In what ways has God shown Himself faithful to help you get through these times?

Gary Chapman Radio

Have you heard about Gary’s weekly radio program?

Tune in to Building Relationships with Dr. Gary Chapman, the weekly radio broadcast brought to you by Moody Radio and Moody Publishers. Listen live online Saturday mornings at 10:00 CST at moodyradio.org, check your local radio station, or download free podcasts and find more information about the program.

Building Relationships is a weekly one hour program offering life-changing insight and realistic advice rooted in the Word. It is designed to provide fun, informative, practical help for your relationships.

In-Laws: God’s Blessing

Your mother-in-law is not your enemy! Our parents and parents-in-law are a part of our lives. But whether we’re newlyweds or an ‘old married couple,’ how should we relate to in-laws? Actually, we need one another. Mutual freedom and mutual respect should be the guiding principle for parents and their married children. What guidelines does the Bible give for in-law relationships? Two principles must be kept in balance: leaving parents and honoring parents.
In Genesis chapter 2 we read, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” Marriage involves a change of allegiance. Before marriage, our allegiance is to our parents, but after marriage it is to our spouse. We must cut the ‘apron strings.’
Don’t disregard your father-in-law’s wisdom. God often speaks through fathers-in-law and mothers-in-law. They are older and may have more wisdom than we. The mature husband and wife will consider carefully the advice of parents and in-laws. At the same time, you are not to put the advice of parents above the desires of your spouse. It’s the biblical concept of “leaving parents” and “cleaving to your spouse” that allows you to establish a new family unit under God.
How do you honor your parents after you are married, without allowing them to control you? As long as they live it is right to honor them. Sometimes we do not respect the lifestyle of our parents or in-laws. But we must respect their position. In the providence of God, they gave us life. For that we respect them. Honor does not mean that you must do everything your parent’s request. Honor is seeking to do what is best for them.
Honoring parents can get sticky because there are two sets of them. The wife’s mother wants them home for Christmas Eve. The husband’s mother wants them home for Christmas dinner. The principle is equality. In Romans 2:11 the Bible says, “God does not show favoritism.” We must seek to treat both sets of in-laws with equality. This may mean Christmas here this year and Christmas there next year. The purpose is to honor and show respect for them equally. Having done so, you have followed the biblical injunction: Honor your father and your mother.
Have you struggled to honor your in-laws? If so, how? How have you and your spouse dealt with these struggles?

In-Laws: God's Blessing

Your mother-in-law is not your enemy! Our parents and parents-in-law are a part of our lives. But whether we’re newlyweds or an ‘old married couple,’ how should we relate to in-laws? Actually, we need one another. Mutual freedom and mutual respect should be the guiding principle for parents and their married children. What guidelines does the Bible give for in-law relationships? Two principles must be kept in balance: leaving parents and honoring parents.
In Genesis chapter 2 we read, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” Marriage involves a change of allegiance. Before marriage, our allegiance is to our parents, but after marriage it is to our spouse. We must cut the ‘apron strings.’
Don’t disregard your father-in-law’s wisdom. God often speaks through fathers-in-law and mothers-in-law. They are older and may have more wisdom than we. The mature husband and wife will consider carefully the advice of parents and in-laws. At the same time, you are not to put the advice of parents above the desires of your spouse. It’s the biblical concept of “leaving parents” and “cleaving to your spouse” that allows you to establish a new family unit under God.
How do you honor your parents after you are married, without allowing them to control you? As long as they live it is right to honor them. Sometimes we do not respect the lifestyle of our parents or in-laws. But we must respect their position. In the providence of God, they gave us life. For that we respect them. Honor does not mean that you must do everything your parent’s request. Honor is seeking to do what is best for them.
Honoring parents can get sticky because there are two sets of them. The wife’s mother wants them home for Christmas Eve. The husband’s mother wants them home for Christmas dinner. The principle is equality. In Romans 2:11 the Bible says, “God does not show favoritism.” We must seek to treat both sets of in-laws with equality. This may mean Christmas here this year and Christmas there next year. The purpose is to honor and show respect for them equally. Having done so, you have followed the biblical injunction: Honor your father and your mother.
Have you struggled to honor your in-laws? If so, how? How have you and your spouse dealt with these struggles?

Learning to Meet Needs

It has been my observation through the years that many husbands simply do not understand the needs of their wives. Conversely, many wives do not understand the needs of their husbands. In their ignorance, they make little effort to meet each others’ needs.

Some husbands believe that if they work at a steady job and bring home a decent salary, they have completed their role as a husband. Some wives believe that if they cook a meal now and then, do the laundry, and wash the baby’s face – that’s it. He should be happy. What’s wrong with the man?

The fact is we all have needs. This is part of what motivates us to get married. When these needs are not met over a period of time, we tend to get irritable. Irritation brings criticism, and criticism brings counter-attack. So, we find ourselves fighting rather than seeking to meet needs. This week we are going to look at marriage as a “mutual aid society.”

The husband who is satisfied with simply putting food on the table has a very limited view of the importance of his role as husband. The wife who is satisfied with cooking that food has a very limited view of the importance of her role as wife.
Food is important, but it is only foundational. It is not the final word. We have needs for love, affection, tenderness, kindness, and encouragement. These are as foundational to our emotional health as food is to our physical health.
Once the food is on the table, it is now time to nurture each others’ inner emotional needs. Why not make a list of what you think your spouse’s needs are? Then ask them to make a list of their needs. Rank them in order of importance. Compare your lists. You may find that you have been spending your energy in the wrong place. Remember your spouse is the expert on his or her needs.
One of our most fundamental emotional needs is the need for security. Safety from the crime-ridden streets of the neighborhood? “Yes,” but the greatest security need is the need for the deep assurance that your spouse is committed to you. That they can be trusted and that they will be there for you. The person who threatens his spouse with such statements as “I just think we should get a divorce. You’d be better off with someone else. Or “I think I’ll find someone who will really love me,” is striking emotional terror in the soul of the spouse.
We need to communicate to each other that whatever happens, we are with them. We want to help. We want to learn. If there are disagreements, we will take time to listen, understand, and seek resolution. “If you are hurting, I want to be there for you.” These are the commitments that create a secure atmosphere in which to grow a healthy marriage.

All of us have the need for significance or self-worth. We want to feel that we are important, that our lives are counting for something. In marriage we are called upon to encourage each other in our pursuits for significance. Ultimately our self-worth is rooted in who we are, children of God by faith in Christ. This makes us extremely important.

As children of God we are all uniquely gifted. As we express these gifts or abilities under the direction of the Holy Spirit we experience satisfaction. We can see something of how God is using us as His instrument for good. We are humbled, but we are also encouraged.
Positive comments about your spouse’s efforts to explore their interests and giftedness is a way to help meet their need for significance. “You’re a super mom,” is encouraging to a wife who has chosen to be a “work at home Mom.” Critical comments, on the other hand, tend to diminish self-worth. Look for ways to encourage your spouse.
Wherever man is found, he is a social creature. He relates to others. Marriage does not diminish this need to relate to those outside the family. The wife may wish to be a part of a ladies’ civic club. The husband should seek to encourage her involvement. In so doing he is helping meet her social needs.

A husband may want his wife to initiate a neighborhood dinner or participate with him in a church Bible study. Such activities may not be at the top of her priority list, but they quickly ascend in importance because meeting his needs is important to her.

In helping each other develop social relationships, we are enhancing their growth as a person. If we put down their social interests as being superficial and unimportant, we create tension because we are seeking to thwart one of man’s basic needs, the need to relate. In a healthy marriage, social relationships are seen as a normal part of life. When we seek to meet each other’s needs, we are building a strong marriage.

The Importance of Attitude

I am responsible for my own attitude. My spouse may treat me unkindly, or ignore me, but I am still responsible for choosing my thoughts. The challenge is to have a loving attitude. The question is, “What is the loving way for me to look at this?” Love always seeks the well being of the other person. This does not mean that I am unconcerned about myself and meeting my needs, but my first concern must be for my spouse.

This does not imply that I am to become a doormat. That is not the loving thing to do. Accepting such behavior is not loving my spouse. When you choose the attitude of love, you are asking yourself, “What is best for my spouse in this situation?” Always that means holding your spouse accountable for unacceptable behavior.
“I love you too much to sit here and allow you to destroy yourself. What you are doing is hurting me, but it is also detrimental to your well-being and I will not be a part of it.” This is a loving attitude.

Trouble is inevitable, but misery is optional. Attitude has to do with the way I choose to think about things. It has to do with one’s focus. Two men looked through prison bars – one saw mud, the other stars. Two people were in a troubled marriage – one cursed, the other prayed. The difference always is attitude.

Negative thinking tends to beget negative thinking. Focus on how terrible the situation is, and it will get worse. Focus on one positive thing, and another will appear. In the darkest night of a troubled marriage, there is always a flickering light. Focus on that light, and it will eventually flood the room.
Maintaining a positive attitude in a troubled marriage may seem impossible, but the Christian has outside help. Lord, help me to see my marriage the way you see it. Help me to view my spouse the way you view them. Help me to think the thoughts that you have toward them. This kind of praying will lead you to a positive attitude.
A positive attitude can be the salvation of a difficult situation. A lady said to me, “My husband hasn’t had a full-time job in three years. The good part is that we can’t afford cable TV, so we spend a lot more time talking on Monday nights. She went on to say, “These three years have been tough, but we have learned a lot. Our philosophy has been “Let’s see how many things we can do without that everybody else thinks they have to have.” It’s amazing how many things you can do without. It’s been a challenge, but we are going to make the most of it.”
There is a wife who has learned the power of a positive attitude. Do you think it has been easy for her? For him? Not at all. But a negative, critical, pessimistic attitude would have made things worse. Why would you want to make things worse?
We must not yield to our natural tendencies. We must seek to walk the high road of looking for God’s hand in everything. Even in a troubled marital situation, God is always at work.
The challenge of keeping a positive attitude is not a new idea. It is found clearly in the first-century writing of Paul the apostle. He wrote, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds. …Whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, or admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” Phil. 4:4-7.
We are responsible for the way we think. Even in the worst marital situation, we choose our attitude. Maintaining a positive attitude requires prayer. Paul said, bring your requests to God. Tell him what you want. Will God always do what we ask? No, but what does happen is that “the peace of God” descends on our emotions and our thoughts. God calms our emotions and directs our thoughts. With a positive attitude, we become a part of the solution, rather than a part of the problem.
One reason my attitudes are so important is that they affect my actions–that is my behavior and words. If I have a pessimistic, defeatist, negative attitude, it will be expressed in negative words and behavior. The reality is that I may not be able to control my environment: sickness, alcoholic spouse, teenager on drugs, mother who abandoned me, father who abused me, spouse who is irresponsible, aging parents. But I am responsible for what I do within my environment. My attitude will greatly influence my behavior.
If you want to know your attitude, look at your words and behavior. If your words are critical and negative, then you have a negative attitude. If your behavior is designed to hurt or get back at your spouse, then you have a negative attitude. Guarding the attitude is the most powerful thing you can to affect your behavior. And, your behavior greatly influences your spouse.

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